All About Solid Wood Flooring

There is nothing quite like a solid wooden floor for warmth and character. Products such as Oak Flooring can bring natural warmth and natural character to any room that synthetic materials cannot achieve.

Because real wood floors are a natural product grown from trees they contain all kinds of variations and natural features. For example, some pieces may contain knots open or filled, and some species may vary in colour quite dramatically like maple. Even slight differences in width are tolerated as wood expands and contracts naturally due to the changing temperatures and humidity surrounding it. But all of these things are the reason that many homeowners want real wood floors. No two pieces will ever be exactly the same, each floor laid will be unique and all those knots and colour variations can combine together to give a stunning overall effect.

Of course, the fact that a real wood floor will last for decades and can be refinished with different stains and lacquers to give a brand new looking floor easily or, left to wear to give a rustic looking floor in time are all superb benefits of owning wooden flooring.

How to choose your Wood floor

One of the great things about solid wood flooring is that it goes with almost anything. Natural wood has so many colours in it that the very same floor that looks fantastic with black furniture and cream walls can go just as well with red furniture and brown walls or whatever ideas you have. It does not limit your choices. As well as the obvious different species you will have to choose from there are many different widths, thicknesses, and grades.

When looking at grades the most popular are natural grades. These contain all the knots and colour variations associated with that species of wood. When fitted they really show off much of the natural qualities of the wood.

There are also rustic grades, which contain much of the same qualities as natural grades yet Knots are left open (unfilled) and width tolerances are greater, resulting in a lot of Rustic charm in the fully fitted floor. In many occasions, the rustic grades have a brushed texture too, which adds to the natural look and feel of the floor.

Lastly, we have the select grades. These tend to be more perfect floors with only the smallest of knots and slight colour variations. The large knots and colour variant pieces are removed from these floors.

When it comes to width, all real wood floors come in varying widths from 50mm up to 240mm. The most popular and widely available sizes are from 75mm up to 180mm. One thing to watch when choosing a width is the surface that it is being installed upon. As a general rule , when fitting onto floorboards and plywoods, it makes little difference, but when installing onto concrete, wider boards need a more expensive glue. 50mm up to 135mm, are fine to be used with a normal wood floor to concrete bonding glue such as Laybond 16. But for wider boards from 136mm up to 240mm a more expensive elasticated glue is required such as MS polymer or an equivalent.

Wider boards tend to be more expensive and also require a greater thickness to prevent cupping. For example a 75mm Birch floor is more than adequate with a thickness of 15mm, but a 180mm floor needs to be 20mm  thick to help prevent cupping. A 15mm floor will still wear almost as well as a 20mm floor though and both should last for many decades.

Important information before installation

The first thing that you should be aware of is moisture and humidity in your home. Any experienced wood floor fitter should be able to provide equipment that will test the humidity and moisture content in a room.

Whichever wood floor you purchase needs to get used to the changes in temperature and humidity that it will experience when it is installed into your home. Wood naturally expands mostly along the width of the grain when it is exposed to an increase in moisture or drop in heat. It will contract when the moisture decreases or heat increases.

Before storing or installing your floor you need to ensure that your room is adequate for installation and acclimatization of a real wood floor. The sub-floor should be level and dry with a moisture content of below 3% on a concrete moisture content scale. If the reading is higher the flooring must not be installed. Drying can be accelerated by using a dehumidifier and increasing the heat within the room.

The room should have a good ventilation and maintain a relative humidity of between 45%-65%. These are deemed normal conditions in a well-ventilated room in a dry home.  Before storing, all plasterwork , wallpapering and painting should be completely dried for 3 weeks before storing your wood floor to acclimatise.

Once the room has been confirmed to be within the above guidelines you are ready to acclimatise your floor. Place the boxes of pre-finished flooring (also referred to as lacquered flooring) into the room of installation. The boxes should be in piles of no more than 4 high. A minimum of 5cm gap between each pile is required. Do not open the boxes or remove the packaging. This can cause warping and cupping in a pre-finished floor. The room should be at 20-22degC. The boxes should be left for a minimum of  7 days to acclimatise, although a longer period is preferred of 14 days or more. This will help reduce movement in your floor after installation. For under-floor heating , please refer to the installation requirements

Installation Requirements and allowing for Wastage of Wooden Flooring.

We highly recommend a professional wooden floor fitter. The floor fitter is the most important person to the end user as he/she will be responsible for how the finished floor will look and perform. We do not recommend DIY fitting or the use of a joiner on solid wood flooring. It is worth remembering while some joiners may be qualified floor fitters, not all joiners are qualified to fit wooden flooring. Below is some important information that must be followed.

It is important to work from several boxes at a time. This enables the fitter to decide on the best mix of colour and grain so as to achieve the best looking floor possible. Different boxes can vary in colour and mixing boxes throughout the installation can give a better overall finish. NB. Wood is a product of nature and in most species a natural wastage of up to 5% is possible. EG as much as 5% of the product may not be suitable for purpose or visually acceptable. It is because of this we always recommend adding 5% to accommodate this natural wastage.

Because of cutting and fitting wastage, it is advisable to allow for a further 5%. So in total, an allowance for total wastage of 10% should be purchased. EG if you need to cover a floor of 20m2, purchase 22m2 of flooring to allow for natural and fitting wastage.

Wood flooring is best laid in the direction of the longest length of the room. For example, a room measuring 5 x 3m should have the length of the boards running along the 5m length of the room. The maximum length a solid wood floor can run without a break for expansion is 7m and the maximum width is 5m. For wider rooms it may be necessary to build in internal expansion. This is achieved by placing 1mm spacers between each joint along the board lengths, then fixing the next row in place and removing the spacers. These internal expansion gaps should continue along the whole length of the joint. Allow 6 complete rows of expansion gaps (6mm in total ) for every extra meter over the maximum width of the room.

When installing onto a concrete sub-floor it must be dry (below 3%MC), level and free from oil, dirt, and dust. Your fitter should be able to test the moisture content (MC) of your sub-floor using a concrete moisture meter. For boards up to 135mm wide, we recommend a concrete to wood bonding adhesive such as Laybond 16. For widths from 136mm up to 240mm  an elastic wood to concrete bonding glue such as MS polymer is required. NB We do not recommend floating any solid wood floors in any circumstances.

When installing onto a timber sub-floor such as floorboards or plywood we recommend secret nailing using a Primatech overlay flooring nailer and  Primatech nails or equivalent.

When installing onto Underfloor Heating longer acclimatisation is necessary. Do not use a solid wood board any wider than 150mm. MS polymer glue (or equivalent) is also necessary. Boxes should be laid flat and unopened separately. Do not pile them on top of each other. The heating system should be set to 14deg for the first week and increase every week by 2degC. After 8 weeks the floor will be acclimatized and ready for installation.

An expansion gap must be left that can vary due to the time of year. During winter the floor will shrink during acclimatisation, so an expansion gap of 12-15mm is required. This should be left around all the edges where the floor meets, walls or fireplaces or any object that the floor is installed adjacent too. During installations in the summer an expansion gap of 10-12mm is required as the floor will have expanded slightly during installation. At all other times, a 12mm gap is sufficient. All expansion gaps can then be covered by the use of skirting or beading. A minimum thickness of 15mm is required to cover the expansion.

At all openings and doorways, expansion gaps are also necessary. These can be hidden by the use of solid wood door bars. At the door frame it is necessary to cut an expansion gap into the frame. This will allow the floor to appear to be fitted flush to the frame, but if it expands can then expand underneath the frame into the expansion gap.

Maintaining A solid wood Floor

  • Place door mats at all external Doors
  • Use felt pads on all chair and table legs
  • Use felt based castor cups on all furnishings fitted with castors
  • Always protect your floor when moving heavy objects.
  • Wipe, vacuum or sweep your floor for daily maintenance.
  • Remove dirt and stains with a certified wood floor cleaner and damp (not wet) mop
  • Remove any spillages from your floor immediately. Never allow liquids to sit on your wood floor.
  • Wood floors are expected to mark and scratch and this is not covered by warranty
  • Oiled finishes may require regular maintenance by re-oiling or the maintenance oils to protect the colour and help resist staining
  • Lacquered finishes may require sanding and refinishing after an extended period of use.
  • Humidity in the room should be maintained between 40-65%RH